My sister has always been a bit of a jokester. When she was a freshman away at college we recieved an official looking envelope with beautiful coligrific writing addressed to our family. My mom excitedly opened it up, then immediately began to cry. It was a wedding announcement, complete with photo of the happy couple (a curly-haired boy she’d never even mentioned holding her in his arms on a picturesque bridge) and velum paper. My mom was hysterical. It was a good ten minutes later that my dad and I found the tiny paper tucked inside a miniature envelope that said, “April Fools!” and were able to deter my mom from doing anything irrational.
For Christmas the year after My husband and I were married we all sat around our living room exchanging gifts. My sister handed my new husband a round, nicely wrapped presant. As we opened the paper, we found our pajamas getting totally soaked and the paper soggy! “It’s a fish!” She proudly announced. And sure enough, we found ourselves holding a basketball-sized glass bowl full of water.
Growing up with her was no different. My junior year in high school I happened to sit next to her good friend (now husband) in Architectural Drafting, and had planned to share a few M&M’s with him. Our teacher was giving instructions, so I discretely tore the package and began to pour them into my hand. Purple. Purple. Purple… ALL PURPLE! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 100 million yen… that’s what the package said. Get a bag of all purple M&Ms and that’s what you’d win. I felt like Charlie finding Willie Wonka’s Golden ticket. I hadn’t a clue how much 100 MILLION yen was, but it sure sounded like an exorbitant amount! I whispered to my neighbor. “Look. Do you believe this?? This is just crazy! They’re all PURPLE!” It didn’t take long before the entire class and teacher were in on my little secret. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. I was contemplating what this would mean for my future. Money, money, money! I was going to be rich!
After the bell rang, I stood in the hall showing my friends. Soon a large crowd had formed, students and teachers alike. Everyone as astonished as I was. Word spreads fast in a small school, and I was feeling more and more famous by the minute, probably enjoying my moment in the spotlight a little too much. A while later I happened to spot my sister sitting on a bench not too far away and, clutching that M&M bag tightly, ran over. I could hardly contain my excitement. As soon as she saw me running, that mischevious grin spread across her face. I began to relate to her the events of the morning when she began to chuckle. Her chuckle turned into a laugh, and soon we were both in tears howling hysterically. She had totally got me.
In my brief time visiting dream-world as a rich, famous, bag of all-purple M&M winner I imagined myself being so happy. Who wouldn’t be with money beyond the imagination, right?? I could buy a beautiful house, fancy clothes, throw elaborate parties for my family and friends.
Since my foolish 16-year-old days I have learned a thing or two. When I went to college, I didn’t have much money and worked at odd jobs on campus. We never did elaborate, costly things, but I will always look back on those tight-budget college years with fond memories. When my husband and I were just married, we lived in a tiny, kinda dumpy, one room, kitchen-the-size-of-a-closet, apartment. The walls were thin, our neighbors were grumpy. But we were so happy! Those were some wonderful times. My sweet, stubborn kids each have one icky t-shirt that they love. Any time I bring a new one home hoping they will finally retire their old ones, they become heart-broken at the mere suggestion. We have so many toys that go abandoned and forgotten, while sticks and rocks rarely are. I have learned in my years since opening that bag of M&Ms that while it may be nice, convenient, and handy, money really does not buy happiness!
That same amazing prankster sister has taught me much about living simply and finding joy in it. She and her husband ride bikes almost everywhere. She buys the cutest clothes for her and her kids at goodwill and garage sales. She builds benches, decks, kitchen cabinets, grows a garden, and has a beautiful home. She is a professional in the art of frugality. They are, without a doubt, some of the happiest people I know.
It is so easy to get greedy. Clothes, cars, toys, new furniture, phones, electronics… To wish for more and not appreciate what we have. I know I have been guilty of such selfish thoughts. But the truth is, the more we realize that our most valuable possessions are family and friends, the richer we will be. At 16 for that brief moment I thought I’d found all the happiness in the world in a bag of all-purple M&Ms. But as I look back at those exciting college memories, blissful newly-wed years, through the abandoned toys in the closet, and at my sister and her sweet family, it’s easy to see that 100 million yen could never truly bring happiness. Our real treasures are staring at us across the dinner table, crawling under the covers at night, calling on the phone to say hello, and giving hugs before walking out the door in the morning. A treasure worth far more than a silly bag of all purple M&Ms.